Brazilians top growing numbers of Latin Americans in the UK

by Ray Clancy on July 13, 2016

London is becoming increasingly popular with expat Latin Americans with new research suggesting that around a quarter of a million now live in the UK with over half, 145,000, in the capital city.

Indeed, the Latin American population is one of the fastest growing migrant groups in London with two thirds having arrived since 2000, according to the research by the School of Geography at Queen Mary University of London.

tower-bridge-london-ukBrazilians are the largest national group, making up over a third of the Latin American population in London, followed by Colombians at around a fifth with large groups also from Ecuador, Argentina, Venezuela and Mexico.

Of those living in the capital, more than two thirds are in Inner London, with particularly large concentrations in Lambeth and Southwark, followed by Brent, Westminster, Wandsworth and Haringey.

It is a particularly young population with two thirds aged under 40, though this is similar to other migrant populations in London. This age profile is perhaps why employment rates are high, at nearly 70%, the report suggests.

The research also shows that a quarter of Latin Americans work in low paid elementary jobs such as cleaners, kitchen assistants, porters, waiting staff and security guards and a further fifth in other low paid sectors such as caring, sales and processing. When compared with other migrant groups in London, only Romanians have higher proportions of those working in low paid elementary jobs.

The report says more needs to be done to help Latin American expats as half of those in London live in private rental housing, double the average for the city, in what can often be poor accommodation. Their levels of access to health services is low. For example, although 90% have used the NHS for themselves or their family, around one in six are not registered with a GP and nearly seven in 10 have not used a dentist.

The report contains a number of recommendations on employment, housing, access to health services and improving monitoring data. The recommendations include ensuring that public bodies have a Latin American category and provide language classes.

‘As one of London’s fastest growing migrant communities, Latin Americans make an essential contribution to how the city operates economically, socially and culturally. Yet only recently have Latin Americans begun to emerge from the shadows of invisibility as a population,’ said Professor Cathy McIlwaine, from Queen Mary University of London.

‘While they are a diverse community, many end up having to work in low-paid jobs and live in poor quality housing because of their lack of English language skills, despite being very well educated. Yet in analysing two data sets of more established and more recently arrived Latin Americans, this research also shows that Latin Americans do integrate successfully as long as they receive support and recognition as a community,’ she added.

According to Carolina Gottardo, director of the Latin American Women’s Rights Service (LAWRS), Latin Americans are hard workers and contribute to London’s economy. ‘They should be able to access health, housing and other services that are theirs by right,’ she said.

‘Naturalisation fees need to be revised to make it possible for many Latin Americans and other migrants to exercise their rights when entitled, considering the amazing contribution that Latin Americans and other migrants make to the UK’s economy, society and culture,’ she added.

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